DIY Garden Arch: How to Build a Cattle Panel Trellis

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Three years ago Sam built me a set of two cattle panel trellises in a very barren corner of our yard. They were part of my design to increase our growing space for fruits and vegetables. To this day, our cattle panel trellis DIY continues to be one most popular garden projects over on Instagram, so I am thrilled to be able to finally share our trellis building instructions here!

Recently, we built another cattle panel trellis to support our passion fruit vines. I chose to go with a cattle panel trellis because of how sturdy it is, but we also used a different type of post to secure the panel due to the more tall and narrow shape of the arch. You can see the passion fruit trellis in action in my video on growing passion fruit

You might also want to read→ A Vertical Gardening Guide

Finding cattle panel for a trellis

This was the first road block we hit. As you know, we live in an urban area where cattle panel and other farm supplies are not as readily available. We were finally able to source ours from a Tractor Supply Co about an hour away. You can view their inventory online (this was our cattle panel), but you must pick it up yourself—I called ahead to make sure it was available before making the trek.

You will need a vehicle that can handle transporting it and some tie downs to secure it.

Cattle panel is large and more sturdy than the other types of wire mesh you will find at most hardware stores. If you try and use the wrong kind of wire panel, you’ll get trellises that won’t withstand the weight of a squash vine and probably won’t last as long. Cattle panel is 4 or 5 gauge wire, and our cattle panel trellis still looks as new as the day we installed it. Worth it!

Design Note:

This DIY creates an arched panel that is staked into the ground using U-Posts. The design does not require you to attach the cattle panel to a raised bed or structure—so it is somewhat freestanding. The benefit of this design is the ability to choose where you place your raised beds (inside or outside the tunnel) or even have an arch with in-ground beds instead. It’s very versatile!

cattle panel trellis paired with raised bed garden

We have two sets of cattle panels as trellises. One side has raised beds, but there are many options for design and layout.

Supplies for your cattle panel trellis:

16′ cattle panel *don’t forget, I have two cattle panel trellises in my garden, but these instructions are for building one cattle panel trellis.

Four U-posts– these are the stakes we drive into the ground to secure the trellis. Tractor Supply Co. also has them here. You can use taller u-posts (4 or 5 foot) if you want to increase rigidity depending on your specific situation. For our tall passion fruit arch we used 6 foot T-Posts for maximum support due to it being a tall, narrow arch. 

Tie wire– typically used for rebar, use this wire to “tie” the cattle panel to the U-posts. Tractor Supply Co. also has it here.

Wire cutters

Hammer (one with a larger surface for driving the u-posts).

Tape measure

Graph paper (we use these books all the time for garden planning, but you can also download graph paper for free HERE).

a cattle panel trellis also provides visual interest in the garden

Another view of our cattle panel trellis area. Even when not in use, the arches add interest to the garden.

Location & Spacing for your Cattle Panel Trellis

Picking a location for your new cattle panel trellis can be harder than building it sometimes. Things you should consider when deciding the location of your trellis are:

♦Sunlight

♦Where & What are you planting? Will you have raised beds on both sides? You can choose to beds on either the inside or the outside of the tunnel, but be aware of walking space.

♦Height. You want your cattle panel trellis to be tall enough that you can walk through without bumping your head. The height of the trellis will be determined by how far apart you place the stakes—more on that calculation below.

♦Wind. Do you live in a windy climate? You might want to position your trellis against a wall or structure where your plants won’t be demolished by rough winds.

Our cattle panel trellises are bent from North to South. We chose this configuration so as the sun travels from East to West during the day, both sides of our trellis gets full sun. I purposely placed our raised bed inside the tunnel to create a shady area for plants that can’t handle our Summer sun, but you can easily put beds on the outside of the tunnel if full-sun is desired.

squash is a wonderful vegetable for growing in the heat of Summer on a trellis

Squash and melons are my favorite crops to grow over my cattle panel trellis in the Summer. Pictured here: tromboncino squash vine growing over arch

Spacing For The U-Posts – how to calculate the height of your arch

The spacing and planning of the beds is the hardest part. Remember, our panel is only 16′ long,  so we can’t make an arch that reaches over a 16′ area, because it would just be laying on the ground. We need to think about how high the peak of our arch should be, and that will determine where we place our posts in the ground for each side of the cattle panel trellis. We will use our setup as an example, but also give you the information to plan your own space and dimensions. Every garden is different and that is one of the best parts of gardening.

Let’s plan the layout! 

You will need:

Graph paper. We think this is the most effective way to plan your cattle panel trellis, so you don’t have to keep moving around a big sheet of cattle panel. We use these graph paper notebooks for all our garden planning, you can print your own graph paper HERE.

A piece of wire or string, 16 squares long

On your graph paper, each square will equal 1 foot. Your piece of wire/string will represent your 16′ cattle panel—that is why we made it 16 squares long. We decided that about 6′ 6″  at the peak of the arch would be enough space to walk through the arch without much trouble.  Using the the graph paper and piece of wire, we can bend it in a loop (making sure the peak is 6.5 squares high, AKA 6′ 6″) and figure out where the other side of our panel will hit the ground. Count the squares along the “ground” and you’ll see how many feet apart to place your stakes.  We found that if we put our posts 6′ apart we will get an arch that is 6′ 6″ at the peak. If your trellis is going to be very tall at the peak, you might want to purchase the taller u-posts to increase the support and help with rigidity, but we have personally had no issues with ours. 

Don’t forget, the construction of the cattle panel trellis is the same, regardless of whether you want to put garden beds on the outside of the tunnel, or one on the inside like mine! The posts don’t need to go into garden beds.

graph paper can help you determine the height of the arch for your cattle panel trellis

Here’s how we calculated the height of the arch for our cattle panel trellis. This technique allows you to customize to the height you need!

How to install the cattle panel trellis

Let’s get the trellis installed. Mark the spot  where your trellis will start on one side. Instead of driving the U-post in that exact spot, go about 4″ down the length of the tunnel and drive your first post into the ground. This will be your post 1, like the diagram above. By placing the posts offset from the exact corner, this will strengthen the structure. NOTE: drive the posts so that approximately 1 foot is below ground. You also want the open channel side facing outside the tunnel so you can tuck in your tie-wire later. If this sounds confusing, see the video below that show the posts.

Next, measure from post 1 straight down the length of the tunnel another 40″  and drive post 2.

Now, it’s time to install the posts on the other side of the arch. Measure  6 feet over from Post 1 (as we calculated on our graph paper) and drive Posts 3 and 4 using the same measurements and procedure above.

This next step is easier with a friend/helper. You need to set your cattle panel on the inside of your posts on one side, and then bend it carefully to set on the inside of the other posts. At this point, the pressure will hold the cattle panel in place while you attach it to the posts, but I think it is safer to have a partner there to ensure it doesn’t pop out of place.

Take your wire and tie the cattle panel to the posts like in the video below↓.  We only wire it in one spot per post because we feel the tension of the panel holds it in place. Also, you can see we tuck the end of the cut wire in the channel of the U-post. This makes it so that we (or anyone else) won’t get scraped on the sharp end. I think Sam did a great job showing how this was done in the video, but if you have questions ask them in the comment section below, and I will make sure to get you an answer.

It’s Finished!

Now all you have to do is plant something to grow on that sweet new cattle panel trellis of yours. In years past I’ve done sugar pumpkins and tromboncino squash, but this year I’m growing a selection of indeterminate cherry tomatoes on my trellis (see Tomato FAQs). You can also check out our Vertical Gardening Guide for more inspiration for what you can grow vertically!

⇓ Have questions? Ask them below! ⇓

PS: Tag me in your trellis photos with #FreckledCA on Instagram!

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

For Growers & Gardeners from High Mowing Organic Seeds
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